Satan made a seemingly gentle suggestion against God's word and work, first by presenting them in a negative light. God had spoken to Adam and Eve, giving them His word. They had gathered much about the mind and personality of God because of what He said.
In addition, they could see with their own eyes a great deal about God's person, personality, and mind by what He had made. They were in a beautiful garden, which reflected the mind of God. They could see the beauty of His mind, and how His mind provided things beautiful and delightful to enjoy. They knew a great deal about the mind of God simply from what they were able to observe.
By making the challenge the way Satan did, he first made them mildly skeptical about God's love, asking them, “Does God really love you?”
Second, he made it seem as though obedience to God was, in reality, servility. He made them begin to feel as though God's way was restrictive; that He was holding back good things from them. This thought naturally lead them to think much more could be obtained from life if they just followed their body's and mind's natural inclinations.
Third, he played his trump card: Not only would they not die, but they would be in control, free to determine right and wrong. In short, they would be equal to God!
Satan successfully brought them into a spirit of competition against God, resulting in the enmity described in Romans 8:7. He indirectly lied about God Himself, and he directly lied about the penalty, giving them misinformation about the reward.
He did tell them the truth, that their eyes would be opened and that they would not immediately die. Their eyes were opened, and they now looked at things through the twisted perspective, seeing evil in everything. From innocence, they became ashamed of their nakedness. The effect began immediately.
This is important because right thoughts precede right actions; right thoughts determine the release of proper emotions. Our thoughts express themselves even in our most casual relationships, in daily work, and most importantly, in our intimate relationships in our home and family. Most of all, they express themselves in our relationship with God. False beliefs about God and His purpose for man are far more destructive than alcohol and drugs. They confuse, divide, and bring on warfare.
Satan's lies, his counterfeits, and his devices are usually so subtle that only a trained mind can discern them. God teaches us to be able to see. He trains us to be able to spot the ploys, contrivances, and stratagems of our enemy so that we can overcome and defeat him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)
Satan's heresy that "You shall not surely die," when expanded, claims that we are already immortal, so death has no real hold over us. This idea, proposed at the very beginning, has thrived throughout history. Mainstream Christianity calls it the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, while various Eastern religions contain it in beliefs such as reincarnation. Whatever its moniker, the belief that human beings possess a spiritual, eternally conscious, imperishable component is a major tenet of nearly every religion throughout man's history. In our modern culture, books and movies abound with examples of the spirits of the dead hovering around the living characters, giving them comfort, aid, and encouragement. It is taken as given that death is not the end; somehow, one's conscious spirit will live on when the physical body perishes.
The Gnostic belief in the dualism of flesh and spirit—with the flesh being evil and something to be freed from, while the eternal spirit was good—also originated in the lie Satan told Eve. Gnostics, in general, believed that the purpose of human existence was to return to the spiritual realm from whence all originated. Death, then, was seen as liberation of the spirit.
First, consider how this belief affects a person's attitude and way of life. When Satan undermined the death penalty for disobedience, in addition to sowing further distrust in what God says, he also blunted one of the keenest elements of human motivation, continued self-preservation. If life beyond the grave is assured, how this life is lived makes little difference. It is like guaranteeing a college freshman that he will receive a doctorate degree, regardless of whether anything is learned, any work is done, any classes are attended, or any tuition is paid. While the student may indeed expend some effort, the motivation to apply himself wholeheartedly to his education will be substantially weakened. It would be so easy to slack off and postpone catching up to some time next week. After all, if the goal is certain, why worry about the details in the meantime?
Spiritually, the result is the same. If one already has immortality, and is eternally saved, there is no pressing reason to resist the pulls of carnality. Resisting Satan matters little. Devoting one's life to growing and overcoming has no urgency. Sin is no big deal. Why should one study to come to know God and His truth? Believing that one already possesses eternal life removes the urgency to live according to the desires and requirements of the Creator. At best, all that remains is the vague guidance of "just be a good person."
The Bible teaches that there can be life after death through the resurrection from the dead. Eternal life is ours only if God supplies it, and not because we possess an immortal soul:
» God tells us, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4; emphasis ours throughout). God repeats this in Ezekiel 18:20. Clearly, it is possible for a "soul" to die.
» Paul instructs in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death," not eternal life—not even eternal life in ever-burning hell. As with Ezekiel 18, sin incurs the death penalty. Satan, though, would have us believe that since death is not a real threat, sin is no big deal. It is only because of God's grace that we are not struck down immediately—not because of any inherent immortality within us—as the rest of Romans 6:23 explains: "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life is a gift, not an inborn quality.
» I Timothy 6:16 says that God "alone has immortality"—not any member of the human race, Christians included!
» Romans 2:7 promises "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality," again proving that eternal life is a gift, not a right, and that immortality must be sought (by "doing good") rather than assumed to have it already.
» Finally, in the "Resurrection Chapter," I Corinthians 15, Paul explains when Christians receive immortality:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:50-54)
It is not until "the last trumpet," when Jesus Christ returns, that the dead will be resurrected and given immortality (I Thessalonians 4:16). At this time, the saints will be changed and given new spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:49; I John 3:2). Clearly, immortality is not given until the resurrection from the dead, which does not take place until Jesus Christ returns.
That God must resurrect a person for him to continue living means that He retains sovereignty. He is not obliged to grant eternal life to anyone who demonstrates, once he has the opportunity to know God, that he is not willing to be subject to His way of life. However, by belittling the truth about the resurrection from the dead, and telling people that they already have immortality, Satan can distract them from a basic reason why they need to listen to God—so that they may be resurrected and continue living!
David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Three: Satan's Three Heresies
The word “shrewd” more closely captures Satan's character than "cunning." Shrewd means “sharp and clever in a selfish way.” Though “cunning” is not incorrect, “shrewd” has clearer connotation.
To be cunning and shrewd like Satan indicates malevolent brilliance—with the emphasis on malevolent. He is seeking to kill. His cunning is like that of a tiger, silently padding through the jungle with eyes malevolently seeking something to kill and eat.
Consider how clever his tactic was. He subtly made a suggestion rather than an argument to discredit God's authority, casting doubt about God's credibility. Satan asked, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"
Through the tone and inflection of his voice, Satan implied that there was doubt that God told them the truth. This is shown by the way Eve replied; she corrected him. She knew from the inflection of his voice that he was really asking a question and casting doubt. When she replied, she over-corrected.
Like a good salesman, the serpent got his victim to agree with him, getting the victim to say “Yes, yes, yes,” and then, "I'll buy it!" Eve was already influenced when she gave her reply because she over-corrected.
Satan successfully magnified God's strictness in her mind, reminding her that the way is narrow. She began to agree with him, thinking about God in terms the serpent wanted her to think. She began to agree, saying “Yes, yes, yes” to the salesman's ploys.
Satan immediately minimized the penalty, saying an outright lie, "You shall not die" (3:4). Then to clinch the sale, he offers her a reward: "You shall be like God" (3:5). What a price she paid! Satan offered a reward that must have seemed so big to Adam and Eve that they could not afford to reject it. What he offered was enough to reorient their lives.
They did not catch the complete significance of what he offered, but enough to know it was big. He offered the self to become the dominating focus of life; "You shall be God." He completely reoriented their lives by turning their focus away from obedience to God toward obedience to the self. He gave them the right to choose and to set the standards of right and wrong. They bought it hook, line, and sinker.
From that point on, mankind has viewed God as a rival and competitor rather than a friend—Someone with whom to compete and outwit rather than cooperate, for they were now gods too!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)
Earlier, God had informed Adam and Eve that sin exacts a penalty, death - the cessation of life - and, if a person will not repent of sin, this means total death - no chance for eternal life. This threat God has held over mankind's head from the beginning. Notice, however, how the Devil replies:
Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (verses 4-5)
Here is the lie: "Look, Adam and Eve, you have an immortal soul. God cannot enforce His threat." In its various forms through the centuries, this doctrine of man having eternal life already has appeared time and again.
In theological terms, this belief is the basis of the "Doctrine of Eternal Security." What is worse, this heretical doctrine has resurfaced in the church, having been part of the latest apostasy. It cannot stand, however, before the light of God's Word. God has a far superior way of dealing with humanity - both righteous and incorrigible.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?
Though Satan tells Eve, "You will not surely die," God corrects this lie in Genesis 3:19: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."
Taking It Through the Grave
In verse 4, Satan slyly convinces Eve that God has lied to them by withholding from them the ability to become "like God, knowing good and evil." God was being unfair, he argues, keeping them from their potential. The passage suggests that, after hearing this, Eve did not hesitate one bit in making her decision. She took the bait without even flinching and ignorantly promoted the interests of Satan by giving the forbidden fruit to her husband. In effect, she signed on to advance Satan's objective—to derail God's plan to create mankind in His spiritual image.
Satan's tack has been the same ever since, even though he must realize that, due to Christ's death and resurrection, he will ultimately lose (Revelation 20:10). While he still has time, he will try to make as many people as he can fail to reach their incredible human potential. He will do whatever is in his power—whatever God allows him to do—to convince them that his way is superior to God's.
For those that have been called by God in this lifetime, we have far more at stake here. If Satan can succeed in deceiving us to advocate for him more and more, he greatly increases our chances of being subject to the second death, the eternal death in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15).
Peter warns us of the dangers that Satan poses to God's people: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). According to the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, "sober" (Greek nepho) is a verb found in the New Testament only in the figurative sense, implying "sober watchfulness." In addition, "vigilant" (Greek gregoreuo) means "to keep awake, i.e., watch (literally or figuratively)."
Combining "sober" and "vigilant" paints an interesting word-picture for us. When a person is heavily intoxicated, he wants nothing more than to sleep it off, so it is impossible for the sleeping drunkard to be vigilant about anything. The message for us is that we must be attentive to our physical and spiritual condition so that we do not become spiritually intoxicated. This type of person is exactly the kind whom Satan seeks. If we enter this state, then we make ourselves a prime target to be devoured by the "roaring lion."
Should a Christian Play Devil's Advocate?
Through distrust, Satan seduced Adam and Eve away from submitting to the most wonderful, lovable, giving, concerned, sensitive, and helpful Personality in all creation—God. Can you imagine that? The Devil convinced them that God could not be trusted!
Distrust is a powerful incentive whose fruit is divorce. Our first parents sinned and division began. The world has not been united since. When there is distrust, faith evaporates. Fear, anxiety, and depression escalate, and the motivation to be personally secure and free from the hassles of coping intensifies. The "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in.
John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 3:4:
2 Thessalonians 2:3